No. 20.

Mr. Everett to Mr. Nelson.

Sir: * * * * * *

The principle of running the forty-ninth degree of latitude to the sea and leaving to each party west of the Rocky Mountains the continuation of its territory east was in all other respects the most natural and equitable basis of settlement.Mr. Everett and Lord Aberdeen continue the discussion.

I had on previous occasions pursued substantially this line of argument with Lord Aberdeen, and I received from him now the same answer to it as formerly, viz, that Great Britain could not now accept terms which she had distinctly refused before; that he felt that we were under the same necessity; that he did not expect the United States to agree to what they had already rejected; and that consequently it must, he thought, be assumed as the basis of negotiation that something must be yielded on each side. To *this I replied, that though as a general principle of negotiation under such circumstances this might be admitted, it was impossible to leave out of view the substantial character of the former propositions on either side; and that in proportion as he (Lord Aberdeen) should, on reconsidering the subject, be inclined to think that the offer formerly made by the United States to continue the forty-ninth parallel to the sea was an equitable offer, and one founded on natural and reasonable principles of adjustment, he ought to be satisfied with but a moderate departure from that proposal; particularly if such a modification, without involving a great sacrifice to us, were eminently advantageous to them. In fact such a modification was the only one which the United States could, in my opinion, be brought to agree to. The modification which I had formerly suggested, viz, that the United States would waive their claim to the southern extremity of Quadra and Vancouver’s Island, which would be cut off by the forty-ninth degree of latitude, was precisely of this kind.[23]

It could be of no great importance to us to hold the southern extremity of an island of which the main portion belonged to England‘ while the entire possession of the island, and consequently the free entrance of the Straits of Fuca, would be a very important object to Great Britain. I repeated what I had often observed before, that I had no authority to say that this modification would be agreed to by the United States, but that I thought it might.

Lord Aberdeen did not commit himself on the point, whether or not this proposal, if made by the Government of the United States, would be accepted. He however stated (as I understood him) that he had caused a map to be colored as I suggested; that he was desirous to go as far as possible for the sake of settling the controversy; that Mr. Pakenham’s original instructions were drawn up in this spirit; and that since he left home, he (Lord Aberdeen) had enlarged his discretionary powers. I confess from these facts, viz, that Lord Aberdeen does not expect us to agree to the Columbia as the boundary, not even with the addition of Port Discovery and an adjacent tract of country within the Straits of Fuca (which we refused in 1826,) that he has never negatived the idea of the forty-ninth degree with the suggested modification; that he has uniformly said that he did not think there would be great difficulty in settling the question, and this although I* have as uniformly assured him that, in my opinion, the United States [Page 34]would not stop short of the 49th degree except in the point above stated; I draw the inference that this proposal would in the last resort be accepted. I am satisfied that the ministry sincerely wish to settle the controversy, and are willing to go as far as their views 0f consistency and the national honor will permit to effect that object. [24]Mr. Everett thinks that Great Britain will accept the line of 49° with the proposed deflection.

They do not, therefore, I imagine, much regret the agitation of the subject in the United States, and are willing we should advance a claim to the 54° 40′; such a course on our part will make it easier for them to agree to stop at 49°. * * * * *


John Nelson, Esq., Secretary of State ad interim.